By Jean Tong, Nutritionist, Halley Medical Aesthetics
Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year are festivities that often go hand in hand with giving, receiving, and eating sweet treats. With both events sharing the same month this year, our days in February are probably filled with sugary nibbles ranging from chocolates, candies to Lunar New Year goodies such as pineapple tarts and love letters.
It’s always nice to consume all these sweet treats, but the question is: Are these sweet treats too sweet for us? And how much is too much?
What is sugar?
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that comes in many different forms that provide us with energy.
The most common form of sugar that our body need is glucose which keeps our brain, major organs, and muscles functioning properly.
Added sugars in food contain no beneficial nutrients to us. Overconsumption of these sugar can lead to weight gain, being overweight or obese, which may result in diabetes. It can also cause our taste receptors to become accustomed to the increased level of sweetness. This will cause the sweet taste receptors in our gut to influence the release of hormones controlling blood sugar, which increases our appetite and cravings for sweet foods.
In summary, the more sugar we consume, the more our body craves for them. We do want the biological equation to work the other way around. As a guideline, the amount of added sugar (sugar added during manufacturing or cooking) that adults should consume should not constitute more than 10% of our dietary energy. This translates to approximately 40-55 grams (8-11 teaspoons) of sugar intake in a day.
Sugar contents in our favourite festive treats
Festive treats Amount of sugar per serving
- Bak Kwa (1 slice) 32g
- Nian Gao (1 pc) 17g
- Pineapple Tarts (2 pcs) 12g
- Chocolate, dark (20g cube/square) 10.4g
- Love Letters (2 pcs) 10g
- Kueh Bangkit (2 pcs) 2g
- Spicy Dried Shrimp Rolls (45g packet) 2g
Beverages Amount of sugar per can
- Coca-Cola Original 35g
- Ribena Lightly Sparkling 31.5g
- Milo Original 16.6g
Source: Health Promotion Board, 2018
How to manage our sugar intake
We should always be mindful of our sugar intake, not just during festive periods and special occasions. Here are some tips for you to reduce and manage your sugar intake.
Tip 1: Read the food labels
Check the ingredient list for sugar. Sugar have names ending in “ose” (i.e. glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose). Other forms of sugar include honey, molasses, and syrups such as corn syrup. The ingredient list is listed in descending order by weight. If you see any of these sugars listed as the first three ingredients, the treat you are about to eat is more likely to contain too much sugar.
Read the sugar contents under the “per serving” column to find out how much sugar a serving of the food item contains.
Tip 2: Use fruits
To add that extra dose of sweetness to your food, consider using fruit purees, dried fruits, and/or fruit juices, or even non-caloric sweeteners such as artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.
Tip 3: Choose Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) products
Go for food and drinks with a Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). HCS-branded products are lower in sugar and calories, as well as the not-so-good nutrients such as fat and sodium.
Tip 4: Practice mindful eating when eating these sweet treats
The key to reducing your sugar cravings is to practise mindful eating. Savour every bite of your favourite sweet treats instead of gorging them down hurriedly or eating them mindlessly. This way, you will eat less of these but yet feel satisfied.
Tip 5: Do not skip meals
You will be surprised that not eating enough will not keep the sugar cravings at bay. This is because our blood sugar level drops, causing us to feel too hungry. When that happens, we will want to reach out to all that sugary snacks to satisfy our hunger and cravings!
The key thing to remember is always eat in moderation. We can indulge in our favourite food just as long as we balance it with exercise and having healthy meals.